Interview with John Charles on The Booklist Reader!

10 Questions for Minerva Spencer

Rising romance star Minerva Spencer launched her writing career with the publication of Dangerous, the first installment in The Outcasts, her Regency-set historical trilogy, in 2018. Dangerous would go on to earn a spot on Booklist’s Top 10 Debut Romances: 2018. And it was was soon followed by Barbarous, which was chosen as one of BookPage’s 14 Most Anticipated Romances of Fall 2018; and Scandalous, which just earned a rave starred review from Publishers Weekly. A transplanted Canadian, Spencer now lives happily in New Mexico on her four-acre hobby farm with an assortment of animals and a terribly tolerant husband.

Who is Minerva Spencer?

This is not a very flattering admission, but when it comes to writing, Minerva Spencer is a messy, disorganized, seat-of-my pants maniac. Just like in every other part of my life, I’m impulsive when it comes to how I tell my stories. When the muse comes to visit, I’ve written as many as 60 pages in a single day.

Of course I’m just as likely to cut all that the following day.

Here is a recent example of how my writing style can sometimes be painful: two nights ago I woke up at 1:53 a.m. convinced I needed to cut 50 pages from my current work in progress. Fifty pages represents about four average days’ work at the rough draft stage; so cutting 50 pages means throwing away four days of work. Anyhow, I dithered and tossed and generally kept Mr. Spencer from having a restful sleep until I finally put on my slippers, made a cup of coffee, and excised those pages with the ruthless precision of a surgeon.

I immediately felt better and could go back to sleep.

My writer friends who plot, plan, and outline listen to those kind of stories with expressions of horror. I’ve tried to make outlines in the past and it has been a waste of time. I might not always like my writing style, but it’s the only one that works for me.

Tell us about your new book, Scandalous.

I know authors aren’t supposed to say they have a favorite book (kind of like saying you prefer one of your children better than the others) but I have a serious soft spot for Scandalous.

I adore Martín Bouchard, the hero in Scandalous. I love the stuff that comes out of his mouth, no matter how obnoxious it is. As I was editing the story and getting it ready for publication I was definitely tempted to make Martín more acceptable to mainstream, modern sensibility. He is far from perfect and often behaves in ways that don’t cast him in a favorable light. For example, I was tempted to make him more sensitive, less arrogant, and get rid of his habit of hanging around brothels.

It’s lucky for me I have an awesome editor who loved Martín, warts and all, and didn’t want me to sanitize either his dark past or his less-than-proper behavior.

Martín might be mercurial, conceited, and selfish at times, but he is also loyal, brave, loving, and principled. Oh, he’s hot. Like, REALLY hot.

And he knows it.

When you have a character like Martín, who could easily turn into a story hog, you have to be very careful about who you pair with him.

Not only do I love Martín, but Sarah is one of the best heroines I’ve written. I’m not a religious person, but I believe that Sarah portrays the best of what organized religion purports to be, without making her into a Pollyanna in the process.

Sarah is loving, kind, open, and giving without being judgmental or rigid, but she’s human, so she’s beset by doubts and struggles to forgive. She’s also consumed by wanton, distinctly improper impulses toward Martín, even when she knows her reaction is impious and probably foolish given his reputation as a world-class rake incapable of love.

The story itself is a wonderful combination of “road trip” (they are on a ship for about half of the book) and glitzy London ballrooms.

Martín is an escaped slave who has made a fortune as a privateer, but he’s got secrets in his past he is less than eager to share. Sarah was born and raised in the jungles of West Africa, but being the child of strict missionary parents meant that she always felt somewhat isolated from her friends and neighbors in the village she considered her home.

The two outcasts bicker and banter their way to London while tentatively exploring each other’s hearts (okay, and bodies). This is definitely a story in which the journey is as exciting and enjoyable as the destination.

You have had a somewhat colorful career path. Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

I laughed out loud when I read this question.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that it occurred to me you were supposed to pick one career and stick to that. How is that possible when life has so many fascinating options?

did have a plan—of sorts—but it has never bothered me to deviate from plans.

I went to undergrad and graduate school for history and then taught on the college level for five years. I only had a part-time position and eventually decided I had two options if I was going to make a career that would support me: pursue a doctorate or do something else entirely.

What I’m about to tell you is the height of irony considering where I’ve ended up. I decided the publish or perish nature of academics—not to mention the ridiculous degree of specialization often required these days (best description of this I’ve ever read is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis)—coupled with the constant wrangling with one’s peers over minutiae, were all things I wanted to avoid.

Having come to that conclusion, I then decided the law would be a less fraught and more straightforward career. (I never told you I made rational decisions!)

I went into law school thinking I’d specialize in tax law, the least glamorous of all legal fields. I figured that would be the perfect job for an introvert. I could work for some firm that would tuck me away in a room somewhere and leave me to myself.

True to form, I never even interviewed for a tax position. Instead, my second job out of law school was that of criminal prosecutor at the Harris County Prosecutor’s office, the fourth largest DA’s office in the country. So, it wasn’t the most laid-back and low-key of positions. My first day on the job I was given an office stuffed with cases and told I had 21 trials scheduled for the next week.

About five years after graduating law school I decided the law wasn’t for me.

At the time my husband was working for a Nigerian company and spent a good deal of time in cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, where people in his business were often kidnapped or shot.

My legal training served me well and I was able to convince him he should quit his dangerous job and we should strike out on our own.

I had owned a bar with my ex-husband years before (did I forget to mention that career?) and knew my current husband and I were too old to live that lifestyle.

Anyhow, I somehow convinced my very traditional spouse—who’d been in the same career for almost 40 years—to jump ship after only four months of research (about three and a half months more than I usually did before making major life decisions) and buy a bed and breakfast. Because, you know, having thousands of strangers visit your house every year is such an excellent job choice for an introvert.

We ran the inn for eight. Long. Years. At the end of that time, in 2013, I seriously needed a break. For the first time in my life I had no idea what I was going to do next. My husband told me to relax, sleep in, and read a lot of books. That’s what I did for a couple of months. And then one day a story came to me while I was on a six-hour round-trip drive to the airport.

I came home and wrote the story down. And then I wrote another (without taking the drive first, this time) and another.

I wrote a pile of stories before a good friend convinced me in early 2017 that I needed to send them off to somebody.

In terms of publishing, I won the lottery and the fifth query letter I sent out got me my first three-book publishing contract.

I love my current job better than any I’ve ever had. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep writing books for as long as I’m having fun. If I ever stop enjoying what I’m doing, I’ll look into going to vet school . . .

What is the book (or are the books) that hooked you as a reader on romance fiction?

I think it is amazing that I actually remember the exact book: The Devil on Horseback, by Victoria Holt. It was the first romance I read and I was titillated by the taboo nature of the relationship (May-December). I recall finding it hard to believe that the young heroine could find the hero—a 35 year-old geezer—attractive. Yes, I was very young.

What three words best describe your own writing style?

Intense, emotional, unpredictable.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about writing?

Write what you like, because if you don’t like it, nobody else will, either.

If you could be one character in literature for a day, which character would you choose, and why?

Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I still check out wardrobes from time to time.

What role do chickens play in your life?

I suppose some people (er, Mr. Spencer, maybe) would say I’m a tad obsessed with chickens. Yes, I love all birds, but chickens—one of the most abused animals on the planet—have a special place in my heart.

I’ve had a small poultry rescue for the last eleven years. I don’t buy chicks from hatcheries after learning how horrible they are (think puppy mill, but with cute fuzzy chicks!) so my flock only increases when I take in a new rescue.

Most of my birds are older because people don’t want them anymore when they don’t lay as many eggs. The second category of rescue is birds who were the sole survivors of predator attacks. For example, my newest rescue—a duck hen we’ve named Mrs. Nelly Quackenbush—was the only survivor after a bobcat got into somebody’s coop and killed 25 other birds.

Because we keep four Great Pyrenees guard dogs patrolling the property we rarely have to concern ourselves with predators.

Over the years I’ve gained enough expertise about their illnesses that the local vet has called me more than once to ask me about chicken issues in her own flock.

I guess you could say I truly love chickens. If you know of any needing a good home, bring ‘em on over.

What is next for you as a writer?

I’ve written sci-fi, detective, and fantasy stories as well as a whole lot of historical romance. I’m lucky that my agent, Pam Hopkins, encourages me to write what I like. In addition to continuing writing romances, I’m hoping you will see my name pop up in one of these other genres at some point.

How can readers best connect with you?

You can check out my website: minervaspencer.com if you want to learn more about my books or bird obsession. If you have a question it’s best to contact me by email: minervaspencerauthor@gmail.com.

Interview with debut author of RAINBIRDS, Clarissa Goenawan

Today I’m talking to Clarissa Goenawan, author of the literary mystery, RAINBIRDS, by Soho Press. RAINBIRDS JUST came out 6 March 2018, so you can snap one up at any of the usual outlets, or check out your local bookstore. 

 RAINBIRDS is a story of a young man who is trying to come to terms with his older sister’s death by finding out the truth behind her murder, but in doing so, he ends up confronting his own dark secret.

MS: Here is a teaser to get you going….


When the car had stopped at the traffic junction, a soft light had fallen onto her pale skin, highlighting her delicate features. My hand was on hers, but she didn’t say a word, nor did she look at me. She didn’t even flinch. Her body was there, but her mind wasn’t.
That night, the two of us were lonely, isolated under Tokyo’s dazzling lights.


MS: Where did you get the idea for your book?


One afternoon, I was just wondering, “What if someone I cared about suddenly passed away, and then, I realized too late that I never actually got to know them?” At first, I wanted to write a short story about a young man who had just lost his older brother, which later on, morphed to an older sister. And then, I realized there were so many things I wanted to explore in their relationship, and that this story has to be a novel.

MS: What’s the story behind the title?

I came up with it! There was actually a really funny story behind it, which you can read at the end of my guest post for Bath Novel Award, “Five Ways to Find The Perfect Title for Your Novel.”
Link: https://bathnovelaward.co.uk/2017/07/26/five-ways-to-find-the-perfect-title-for-your-novel/

MS: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.


RAINBIRDS is part of a series of interrelated novels. So do keep a lookout at the side characters, because they might be the main characters for the next book.

MS: Tell us about your favourite character.


Rio Nakajima, also known as ‘Seven Stars.’ She’s a seventeen-year-old girl who is bright and bold, unafraid to voice her opinion and relentlessly goes after what she wants. She doesn’t care about conforming to public’s expectation, and I really admire her for that.

MS: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 


There is this young girl who celebrated my main character’s seventeenth birthday in the most bizarre way. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but let’s just say I wish to be part of the party (though that can possibly make me the third wheel… hmmm…)

MS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?


Most of them came from my imagination, but a few were very loosely based on people I knew in real life. For example, Honda, Ren’s colleague, was inspired by my ex-colleague and lunch buddy who used to drive—yes, you guessed it—a black Honda sedan. All the characters’ personal stories are, of course, fictional.

MS: How long did you take to write this book? 

Almost five years, which at a point of time, does feel ‘forever’ to me. But, in term of traditional publishing, it’s still relatively fast.


The breakdown:
First draft – 1,5 months
Editing – 1,5 years
Submission to agents – about half a year
Submission to publishers – about half a year
From signing of contract to publication date – about two years


MS: What kind of research did you do for this book?


I grew up reading copious amounts of manga (Japanese comic books), and I learnt Japanese language since high school, so that gave me a good starting point. I also consulted a huge number of books, essays, and articles, and asked some friends who’re familiar with Japan to be my beta readers.

MS: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?


A lot of things that don’t really matter, including a scene of Honda teaching Ren the best way to enjoy xiaolongbao, a type of Chinese steamed bun.


MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?


I tried to plot, but that didn’t work. I normally have a sense of beginning, somewhat of an ending (though, most of the time, it changes), but nothing in between.


MS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?


The first draft! I’m always pleasantly surprised by the unexpected places my characters lead me to.

MS: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?


The last few edits are the hardest for me. By then, I have grown too familiar with my work. It’s hard to discern the trees from the forest.


MS: What are you working on right now?


I’m currently editing my second and third novels, both of them literary mysteries. And just like RAINBIRDS, they’re set in Japan.

MS: What’s your favourite writing advice?


If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King.


MS: Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“Luminous, sinister, and page-turning all at once. I loved it.” 
—Kate Hamer, internationally bestselling author of The Girl in the Red Coat and The Doll Funeral 

“A beautiful mystery setup with a complex, magical love story.” 
—Eka Kurniawan, award-winning author of Beauty Is a Wound and Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

 

Thanks for joining us, Clarissa! If you want to snag a copy of Clarissa’s book you can use the links below:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1616958553

Barnes & Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rainbirds-clarissa-goenawan/1126551443?ean=9781616958558

BookDepository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Rainbirds-Clariss-Goenawan/9781616958558

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781616958558


Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her debut novel, RAINBIRDS, is the winner of the 2015 Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have won several awards and been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She loves rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.

 

 

 

Website: http://www.clarissagoenawan.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clarissagoenawan/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClaireClaire05

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/clarissagoenawan/
Pinterest: N.A.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16100168.Clarissa_Goenawan

Interview with Maddison Michaels, debut author of THE DEVILISH DUKE

The Devilish Duke

Historical Romantic Suspense

26th February 2018, Entangled Publishing

Minerva Spencer: Today I’m chatting with Maddison Michaels about her new Victorian novel, THE DEVILISH DUKE. Welcome, Maddison! Would you please give my readers a brief description of what the book is about?

Devlin Markham, the notorious “Devil Duke” of Huntington, needs a woman. And not just any woman. If he can’t woo one of the most eccentric bluestockings of the Ton within the month, he can kiss his hard-earned fortune goodbye. But he’s always thought love a wasted emotion and marriage an inconvenience at best. And oddly enough, Lady Sophie Wolcott seems unmoved by his charm…

When Sophie learns her beloved orphanage is in imminent danger, she will do anything to save it. Even marry a ruthless rake who takes what he wants in business and pleasure. A man who’s everything she’s always feared most—but whom she reluctantly begins yearning for.

Then Sophie becomes the target of a killer lurking from the dark shadows of Devlin’s past. And they find not only their lives in jeopardy but their very hearts.

This sounds like fun, Maddison! How about a teaser from your book.

“Hadn’t you heard? I am the Devil Duke, my very existence is blasphemous. Now run along or I will show you just how much of a devil I can be.”


Minerva Spencer: Where did you get the idea for your book?

Maddison Michaels: I think the characters first came to me – and I was watching Julian McMahon in Charmed and I liked the idea of a rake being reformed.


MS: What’s the story behind the title?

Originally the working title was The Rake’s Rules – but then I changed it to The Devil Duke, and then my Publisher changed it to The Devilish Duke.


MS: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Sophie literally falls at the feet of the Devil Duke from the branch of a tree…


MS: Tell us about your favourite character.

I love both Devlin and Sophie… they’re very special to me and I imagine that as the first hero and heroine of my first novel, they always will be.


MS: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

LOL! Ok well it would be with the hero Devlin, and I would be researching if the descriptions in my book regarding the action scenes, worked…


MS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

Like I mentioned, the inspiration for Devlin was Julian McMahon from Charmed, but apart from that, they sprang from my own imagination.


MS: How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It was done in spurts – and because the partial earned me a spot in the RWA Australia 5 day mentor program, I had to finish it quick smart. So I actually wrote about 30,000 words in a weekend to finish it off (of course it needed lots and lots of editing, lol).

MS: What kind of research did you do for this book?

I have a heap of research books (really what writer doesn’t), which I made good use of.

MS: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

A few scenes from the villains pov were removed, and a couple were shortened.

MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter – if I don’t have a detailed outline I flounder, but when I know where I’m headed (much like a map) the writing flows easily.

MS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I love the plotting – coming up with the twists and turns, is just so much fun. Plus I get to know my characters really well.

MS: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Editing… because it’s editing…


MS: Can you share your writing routine? 

When I’m writing a novel, I spend about an hour per night writing, and then on the weekend I try to have a nice block of 6-8 hours writing.


MS: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes, when I don’t have an outline, lol. So when I’m blocked, it’s usually because I haven’t fleshed out the scene beforehand. To overcome this, I just go back and plot the scene out in more detail.


MS: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Just keep going.

 

MS: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have a fair few unfinished ones – in my earlier days when I didn’t plot out the novel, I would write all steam ahead, until I hit around 15,000 to 20,000 words, then I wouldn’t know where to go, and I’d just stop. Thankfully, I’ve worked out what works now for me.


MS: Do you have any writing quirks?

I make up a playlist/soundtrack for my novel, before I even start plotting it out. Then when plotting I listen to the music, and then when I write, it gets me straight back into that headspace. Oh and I also burn some lovely aromatherapy oils while I write too.

 

MS: Tell us about yourself.

I’m a police prosecutor by day and writer by night! I am married to my wonderful husband and have a beautiful (yet rather headstrong) 6 year old daughter.

MS: How did you get into writing?

I caught the writing bug when I was eleven and entered a writing competition. It’s just something that is a part of me.

MS: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Hang out with my family. Read. Go for walks or bike rides.

MS: Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

Nope, not yet anyway.

MS: Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I hate sharks – probably because I watched JAWS when I was 4 years old…

MS: Which book influenced you the most?

All of Amanda Quick’s novels and Julie Garwood’s – my two fav historical romance writers.

MS: What are you working on right now?

A new three book Victorian series – with some really strong and unusual heroines.

 

Thank you for joining us, Maddison! You can order your copy of Maddison’s new book from the links below. Happy reading!

Book Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon Aus: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon Can: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B079LF6NTV

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-devilish-duke/id1344891465?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-devilish-duke-4

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Maddison_Michaels_The_Devilish_Duke?id=k35KDwAAQBAJ

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devilish-duke-maddison-michaels/1127921821?ean=9781640633438

Indoctrinated into a world of dashing rogues and feisty heroines when she was only 14-years-old, Maddison Michaels is a prolific reader and writer of romantic suspense and historical fiction. She gets her daily dose of suspense from working as a Police officer, prosecuting real life villains in the Local Courts of Sydney, Australia.
A member of the Romance Writers of America and Australia, Maddison is as passionate about her writing as she is about her other two loves; her family and her cups of tea. Maddison’s debut novel ‘the Devil Duke’ is due for publication with Entangled Publishing in February 2018, and her second novel ‘The Fiancé Fiasco’ is due for publication with Entangled Publishing in October 2018.

You can find Maddison online at www.maddisonmichaels.com.au

Website: http://maddisonmichaels.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaddisonMichaelsAuthor/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/mmichaelsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maddisonmichaelsauthor/
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17367583.Maddison_Michaels

Amazon Author Page : https://www.amazon.com/Maddison-Michaels/e/B079LXRLQ7

A Book Birthday for Debut Author Clarissa Harwood’s Historical Fiction Novel, Impossible Saints!

Today’s interview is with author Clarissa Harwood, whose book, Impossible Saints, debuts TODAY, January 2, 2018!! 

Impossible Saints is historical fiction and published by Pegasus Books and you can grab a copy NOW from the following book vendors:

Amazon

Barns & Noble

Chapters Indigo

The book is set in 1907 England. Lilia Brooke, an agnostic militant suffragette, believes marriage to a clergyman is a fate worse than death. Paul Harris, a quiet, intellectual Anglican priest, is well aware that falling in love with Lilia is incompatible with his ambition to become the next cathedral dean. Lilia and Paul must decide which compromises they’re willing to make and whether their love is worth fighting for.

Impossible Saints Authors18.jpg

A teaser from Impossible Saints:

“How well do you know Whitechapel?” she asked.

He hesitated.

“Have you ever been there?”

“No,” he admitted, “but I don’t need to go to Hell to know I don’t want to spend time there.”

She laughed. “That’s a terrible analogy.”

“Don’t you think you could better achieve your ends by adding a little prudence to your fearlessness?”

“You sound like my mother.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “Why is it that men’s courage is called bravery but women’s courage is called recklessness—or, even worse, foolishness? If I were a man, would you urge me to be prudent?”

“I certainly would,” he said firmly. “Not everything is a question of sex.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Everything is a question of sex, but because you’re a man, you don’t see it.”

*************

Minerva Spencer: How long did you take to write this book? 

Clarissa Harwood: The novel took about twenty years from conception to publication. The first draft took me a little over a year, but I’ve written so many drafts since then that I’ve lost count. I gave up on it several times and wrote other books, but I kept coming back to it. You can read more about the timeline, including signing with my agent and getting the book deal in this blog post.

 

MS:  What kind of research did you do for this book?

CH:  As a doctoral student and later an English professor, I specialized in nineteenth-century British literature, so the poetry and fiction of that era always sparks my research and leads me to primary sources. An early influence on Paul’s development as an Anglican priest was Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, with its delightful melodrama surrounding the lives and loves of cathedral clergy. Poets associated with Anglo-Catholicism inspired Paul’s story too, such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti. First-person accounts of the suffragettes’ destruction of property, hunger strikes in prison, and the brutal force-feeding they endured, especially Emmeline Pankhurst’s My Own Story and Constance Lytton’s Prison and Prisoners, were especially influential in shaping Lilia’s experiences.

MS:  What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

CH:  Deciding what to include and what to exclude is always difficult, but I’m fortunate to have people with great editorial eyes looking at my work—critique partners, beta readers, my agent, and my editor at Pegasus.  I’ll admit I was dismayed when Laura, my agent, first suggested killing off a fairly major character in Impossible Saints, but Laura has an uncanny ability to detect which elements of a story should be left in and which should be left out, so I knew I could trust her judgment. I was also disappointed when I realized on my own that I had to kill off my only Canadian character and put a New Zealander in his place! It’s obvious to me now that both “murders” improved the novel.

MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CH:  My natural tendency is to be a plotter, but I’m trying to let my inner pantser come out more often! I never plot a novel in great detail, though. Before I start writing a novel, I usually write a brief synopsis. Writing a synopsis for a finished novel is painful, but writing one early in the process is a helpful exercise to work out what the important turning points and key scenes will be. Of course, the synopsis I write at the beginning bears little relation to the one I write at the end, but that’s as it should be!


MS:  What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

CH:  I love revisions, whether I’m doing them on my own after having written several drafts, or whether I’m doing them based on my agent’s or editor’s feedback. There is no “terror of the blank page,” so I don’t experience writer’s block when I’m doing revisions. I already know the story and the characters, so I don’t have to create anything from scratch. Instead, I’m adding layers and depth, polishing something that is already a solid story.

 

MS:  What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

CH:  The first draft! How I hate the first draft! I hate not knowing my characters. They aren’t my friends yet, and I miss my old friends from the previous novel. The characters in a first draft are people who’ve dropped out of the sky and are ordering me to tell a story I don’t know.


MS:  Can you share your writing routine? 

CH:  I’m very fortunate to have flexible hours in my day job (I teach online courses at my local university), so I can work at home most days and organize my time the way I want to. Mornings are my sacred writing time: I try to write for at least an hour or two every morning. But my writing routine is quite different depending on whether I’m writing an early draft or a later one. I give myself a minimum time period when I’m working on a first draft (only ten minutes if I’m really struggling). When I’m working on a later draft or revisions, I give myself a maximum time period: otherwise I miss appointments, meals, and sleep because all I want to do is write!


MS:  Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

CH:  Yes, usually when I’m working on a first draft or if I’ve been away from the manuscript too long. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so my first step is usually just reminding myself that it’s ok to “write crap.” In fact, this is how I wrote my entire dissertation! When my writer’s block is really severe, I use the ten-minute minimum time period I mentioned before and let myself make point-form notes if I can’t form complete sentences. Another trick I use for severe writer’s block is stolen from the movie The King’s Speech: to work on the king’s stutter, his speech therapist had him shout out swear words to loosen him up. I do this with writing if I’m really stuck: I just write long lists of swear words!

 

MS:  How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CH:  I wrote two novels as a teenager that were awful. I rewrote one of them in my twenties, but it was still pretty awful. I’ll call those my three practice novels. Then I signed with my agent based on a finished novel that didn’t sell, and I recently finished a sort of sequel to Impossible Saints. That’s two finished unpublished novels. I also have two unfinished first drafts of new novels.

Thanks so much for sharing your process with my readers and good luck with your publishing journey!

*********

Clarissa_Harwood Authors18.jpg

If you’d like to contact Clarissa or have questions for her you can find her at one of the following places:

Website: www.clarissaharwood.com
Facebook: @ClarissaHarwoodAuthor

Twitter: @clarissaharwood

Goodreads: Clarissa Harwood

Interview with debut author Carrie Nichols!

Today I’m speaking with Carrie Nichols, debut author of The Marine’s Secret Daughter, a romance about forgiveness and second chances. Carrie’s book is published by Harlequin and will be out SOON, the paperback will be available 1/16/18 and the digital on 2/1/18.

I’ve asked Carrie to talk about her writing process, but first, here is a peek at the cover:

The Marine's Secret Daughter

Carrie’s book isn’t out yet, but you can grab a copy early if you just click on THIS!

And how about a quick teaser….

This was not how her first meeting in over five years with Riley Cooper was supposed to happen. In her imagination, she was all sexy in a little black dress and killer heels after a relaxing spa day. Yeah, right; she’d spent the day cleaning and probably looked like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. So not fair! Riley was supposed to be breathless and falling at her feet, not vice versa. Stupid, stupid asthma.

Minerva Spencer: Thanks for joining me, Carrie. My first question is one authors get all the time: How long did you take to write your book?

Carrie Nichols: Years and years. LOL! The story underwent a lot of changes since I knew nothing about plotting and story arcs when I first wrote it as a series of scenes. But these characters wouldn’t let go and I’d learned enough by the 4th draft to start winning contests and to sign with my dream agent.

MS: What kind of research did you do for this book?

CN:  I love research so I did way more than I needed. I researched the fictional setting of Loon Lake, Vermont, including the loons that make the lake home. I consulted several nurse friends for the hospital scenes, a friend whose son was a marine and my critique partner whose husband is a respiratory therapist.

MS: Did you have to change much during the editing process?

CN:  We mostly added things during the editing process. I had already removed scenes that didn’t further the story thanks to my ever patient agent.

MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CN:  I’m a recovering pantser. I had the luxury of years to write and rewrite my first story but knew I had to learn plotting basics to sell on proposal. I still struggle with plotting but with the help of Laura Baker’s Turning Points and Discovering Story Magic online classes, I’m slowly becoming a plotster. I have a skeleton with the big scenes and story/character arcs and fill in the rest as I write.

MS:  What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

CN:  Getting to know my characters and what makes them tick. They come to me fully formed and I have to figure out what happened to them (their backstory) to turn them into the flawed people they are. And because I write romance, I love giving them their HEA (happily ever after) after making them work for it.

MS:  Can you share your writing routine?

CN:  I write in my home office. When my youngest moved out I cried when I walked into his empty room until I realized I had an empty room! As my husband observed, I wasted no time in making that room my own with paint and some bookcases. I am also lucky enough to not have a day job. I lost my job about a month after signing the contract with Harlequin and since my husband was already retired, I decided to join him.

MS: One last question. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CN: Don’t give up!!

Carrie Nichols

Carrie Nichols, is a hardy New Englander transplanted to the deep South, where two inches of snow can bring a city like Atlanta to its knees. She loves to travel, is addicted to British crime dramas and knows a Seinfeld quote appropriate for every occasion. 
Carrie has one tolerant husband, two grown sons and two critical cats. To her dismay, Carrie’s characters, much like her family, often ignore the wisdom and guidance she lovingly offers.


USA Today called Carrie’s short story, Snowbound with the Stork, “a charming debut”

You can connect with Carrie at:

Website: http://carrienichols.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorCarrieNichols/

Twitter: @carolopal

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/carolopal/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15104405.Carrie_Nichols

Interview with Sandi Ward, author of THE ASTONISHING THING

Today I’m interviewing fellow Kensington author Sandi Ward, who has joined me to talk about her new book.

Hi Sandi! I understand the narrator of The Astonishing Thing is somewhat. . . unusual. Can you tell me about it?

The narrator of this story is a cat! Her name is Boo. I decided to write a story from a cat’s point of view as she tries to solve a mystery. In this case, Boo’s human mother goes out one day and doesn’t return. Boo wants to know: what happened to my mother?

As I wrote more of the story, I realized that Boo’s point-of-view was similar to that of a perceptive child. She understands a lot of what’s going on with her humans—but not everything. Boo doesn’t know much about mental illness, or divorce, or what exactly is wrong with the baby of the family. So the reader must go on a journey with Boo, piecing together clues until the truth becomes clear.

I have to ask: Is there romance in your novel?

Absolutely! Although my story is general fiction and I write about families, I love stories with romance. I have never written a story that didn’t include a romantic relationship at its’ core.

To my narrator, Boo, the need to find a mate is completely normal and natural. At the same time, Boo finds the mating rituals of humans very amusing. She thinks people are funny and quirky, and she can’t always figure out what people are attracted to, and why.

In her family, Boo also gets to see up close what devotion truly is about: sacrifice, the willingness to look the other way sometimes, and forgiveness. And even then, no one is guaranteed a happy-ever-after. In real life, sometimes “happy for now” is good enough.

Here is Boo on the cover of Sandi’s book:

the astonishing thing copy_March 2017.jpg

Why did you name the cat Boo?

First of all, I just think it’s a very cute name for a cat. It’s simple and sweet.

I also had in mind Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird. He’s another character who is housebound and very quiet, but impacts a story at important moments.

The humans in the story have other nicknames for Boo, like Cutie and Sweetie. Because I’m a J.K. Rowling fan, the character Jimmy (a teenager) also sometimes calls the cat  “Crookshanks”. Boo doesn’t get the reference, of course. She has no idea who Harry Potter is, and couldn’t care less.

ABOUT THE ASTONISHING THING:

In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .

Pet owners know that a cat’s loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie—or Mother, as Boo calls her—suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie’s husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo’s human siblings, especially baby Finn.

Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she’s trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat—a wise, observant, very determined cat—can do that . . .

Wonderfully tender and insightful, THE ASTONISHING THING explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.

“A unique and poignant tale of a family’s struggle as witnessed by someone who sees everything…a triumphant debut for Sandi Ward.”

— Helen Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Cleo

FIND THE ASTONISHING THING AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER, OR:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

ABOUT SANDI

Sandi Ward grew up in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts. She attended Tufts University, and received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University, where she studied with E.L. Doctorow. She now lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, teenagers, dog and a big black cat named Winnie. Sandi is a medical writer at an ad agency in New Jersey, specializing in psychiatry and pain management.

Her first novel for Kensington Books is titled THE ASTONISHING THING, and it is available October 31, 2017. Her second novel is titled SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, available November 2018.

To learn more about Sandi and STAY IN TOUCH:

Learn more at: www.sandiwardbooks.com

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